07 SES 01 B, Students’ Perspectives on Success and Inequality
Migration to Ireland is continuing, albeit at a much slower pace and migrant children continue to have a strong presence in Irish schools. How well these students integrate into the Irish system, depends, at least partially, on the support measures the schools have put in place for these students. This paper reports the results of an empirical study on support measures available in Irish secondary schools. In doing so, it draws on secondary analysis of data gathered for a larger study on migrant children in Irish schools. While the experiences of migrant children in the Irish educational system have been extensively researched over the years, few previous studies have drawn on a nationally representative dataset and focussed specifically on the support measures migrant students can have access to.
Exploring academic and social support measures in the Irish context is important for a number of reasons. Firstly, the relatively recent increased ethnic, linguistic and religious diversity among an almost exclusively White Irish school population makes Ireland an interesting case study. Secondly, research on integration of migrant students highlights the importance of a whole school approach (Smyth et al., 2009). Thirdly, this study is set at a time when Ireland was experiencing major economic and social transformations, and when both the country’s economy and immigration trends turned from positive in the mid-1990s to negative since 2008. In order to ensure that the children of migrants would have the same life chances as native Irish children, school-based support measures are essential. While there is a growing literature on factors that impact the experiences of migrant students in Ireland, less is known about formal support mechanisms available to these students.
Caring and supportive schools are settings designed to provide academic and pedagogical support to the students and contribute positively towards their well-being. Supportive leadership and positive organisational climate at school is a foundation for a caring, supportive, and learner-oriented setting, where teachers encourage and engage the students (Coldron, 2002; Hersi, 2011). The provision of formal (e.g. learning support) and informal (e.g. extra-curricular) support tends to have a positive impact on students’ academic and social development (Coldron, 2002; Fertig, 2012). Previous studies suggest that efforts by school staff to provide a supportive climate are likely to encourage student engagement, and prevent bullying (Eliot et al. 2010). In addition, supportive schools contribute significantly to the health and well-being of children through empowerment and participation. Over the decades, migrant receiving countries have put in place various national support measures for migrant students. As shown in a recent large-scale study, there are a number of different approaches adopted across Europe with regard to educational and social support for newly-arrived migrant children (European Commission, 2013). Conceptually, this paper is interested to explore how Ireland compares to various other educational support models in Europe.
The issues discussed in this paper constitute part of ongoing academic and policy debates not just in Ireland, but also elsewhere in Europe and beyond given increasing migration. This paper relates the Irish experience with educational support models for newly arrived migrant students developed in other European countries (European Commission, 2013). All teachers should thus be aware of what influences the experiences of these children and how to make schools supportive so that migrant students can reach their full potential. It is important that national policy-making focuses on intercultural teacher training and that research systematically explores how policy translates into practice, how these practices differ across a range of schools and how teacher training programmes are implemented nationally.
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